Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson has long been an exciting film-maker. Directing such peculiar comedies as ‘Rushmore’, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, his flair for discovering humour in mundane situations has been unequalled. His variety of work has made his output consistently engaging with ‘Isle of Dogs’ delivering another quality production. Using stop-motion animation, his latest is aimed at the young at heart with Anderson’s gleeful observations of life’s foibles on full display.

In the near future, Japan’s canine population is in the grip of a deadly flu virus. The Mayor of Megasaki City takes drastic action and sends every dog to Trash Island. One of the first dogs to be sent to Trash Island belongs to the Mayor’s ward 12 year old Atari Kobayashi, who goes on a desperate mission to rescue his four legged pal. After an arduous journey to the island, Atari encounters a group of dogs who promise to help find his lost pooch. With time running out before the Mayor takes even more drastic actions, Atari and his friends race against the clock before tragedy strikes.

Using a mix of animation styles, ‘Isle of Dogs’ stands out. From the smooth look of Megasaki City to the ragged roughness of Trash Island, each scene comes alive. Animation is for all, not just for children, with ‘Isle of Dogs’ displaying substantial themes amongst the hand-drawn wonders. Whilst its simple story of a boy searching for his dog is nothing new, the way Anderson uses it to craft a tale uniquely his own shows his command of the craft.

Credit also goes to the voice actors who convey the desperation and ruthlessness of their characters. Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and others bring their considerable experience to fully flesh out their roles. The infusion of Japanese culture gives ‘Isle of Dogs’ a different look with the various local traditions displayed having much visual impact. Mixed with a sly blend of humour and pathos, ‘Isle of Dogs’ has enough to ensure viewers remain engaged.

Any Wes Anderson movie is usually an ‘event’. ‘Isle of Dogs’ is another in his rich tapestry of work. Wryly quirky with gorgeous animated vistas, Anderson’s career certainly hasn’t gone to the dogs with this endlessly inventive effort.

Rating out of 10: 7

A Quiet Place

‘Actions speak louder than words’ is an oft used phrase. This is especially true in the cinema as silent films were a mainstay in its early years. The vision audiences saw spoke more than any vocabulary could making stars out of Rudolph Valentino and others. Silent movies have been rare in the last several decades but some have braved the world of high volume noise. ‘A Quiet Place’ makes a virtue of silence with the very sparse dialogue making way for a creepy tale where it pays to stay quiet.

Evelyn (Emily Blunt), her husband Lee (John Krasinksi) and their two children are living in fear. With a young deaf daughter and son to protect, the parents have to ensure they all remain silent. The reason is that a gaggle of evil alien creatures who hunt by sound are roaming the earth. Faced with a daily struggle for survival where a pin drop can bring death, the family’s lives are constantly threatened. The sounds of silence have never been sweeter for the quartet as they constantly face danger.

Directed by one of its stars, John Krasinski, ‘A Quiet Place’ is an often tense study in terror. By not relying on endless vocal exposition, Krasinski bravely takes away this safety net and is forced to be narratively creative. He generally succeeds despite several plot holes. The concentration on a small but talented cast highlights the isolation the characters feel. They have to rely on each other for survival with the family unit becoming increasingly important.

If you think about the story too much, then its logic gradually becomes unstuck. But if you go along with the tightly written script and strong performances then ‘A Quiet Place’ delivers. The depiction of the alien creatures is smart as are the ways of avoiding their wrath. With so little spoken words, it’s left to the stirring orchestral score and cinematography to generate the mood. Both do so with ease as they reveal how previously harmless but noisy objects can cause chaos.

Talking too much about ‘A Quiet Place’ would be going against its vow of silence. Whilst certain plot elements could have been better realised, as a straight-forward scary movie it works. Telling fellow cinemagoers to not speak or nibble loudly on popcorn may be advisable with the lurking anger of a movie watcher occasionally more dangerous than any on-screen beastie.

Rating out of 10: 7